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What happens during Pennsylvania probate?

On Behalf of | Feb 24, 2024 | Probate

In Pennsylvania, navigating the probate process is a crucial step in managing the affairs of a deceased person, known as a decedent. This process occurs so that the transfer of the decedent’s assets is managed properly. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that the decedent’s wishes are honored, or that state law is upheld in the event that someone dies without an estate plan in place. Estate debts are also taken care of during this process.

Understanding when probate is necessary, what assets are subject to probate, how debts and expenses are handled and an executor’s duties can provide clarity and direction during what is often a challenging time.

When probate is required in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, probate is required if a person dies without naming beneficiaries for all their assets. The process doesn’t include jointly held assets or those with a right of survivorship. Instead, those assets go directly to the joint account owner.

Assets that require probate

Assets that must go through probate include real estate titled in the decedent’s name alone and personal property like vehicles, jewelry and art. The executor is responsible for finding these assets and assessing the value.

Handling debts

The executor is also tasked with settling the decedent’s outstanding debts. This involves notifying creditors of the decedent’s passing, typically through a published notice in a local newspaper. The creditors then have a limited time to make a payment claim. Pennsylvania law dictates the order in which debts are to be paid if the estate doesn’t have sufficient funds to cover all liabilities.

Duties of the executor

The executor has to handle the legal proceedings, find beneficiaries, locate assets, manage all assets, pay debts and pass along assets to heirs. If there’s no estate plan, everything must be handled according to the intestate laws in Pennsylvania. The executor must act in the estate’s best interest, exercising care and diligence in their duties and may need to provide the court with updates and final accounting before the estate can be closed.

Seeking legal guidance may help make this process progress more smoothly, so that the executor doesn’t make mistakes that could prolong probate or increase the estate’s expenses.